When No Means No:
The "persistent man" syndrome...
A couple of weeks ago, this really old rap song was stuck in my head, like one of those annoying jingles from Old Navy. I couldn't remember the artist, song title, or year that it was released, but I distinctly heard the chorus reverberating in my every free thought: so this incredibly slutty-sounding girl sings, "I gotta man," and you can kind of tell (or hope) that she doesn't normally talk like that, and the rapper replies, "What's your man got to do with me?" And she repeats her insistence of having a boyfriend (or pimp), and he again flippantly dismisses her protests.
Remember this pretty romantic scene from the film Say Anything? But imagine that Ione Skye had just said no. Wouldn't this then be...kinda stalkerish?
It's a lighthearted song in the same vein as "Baby Got Back" or "O.P.P.," but as with those songs, there is something in the back of your mind that nags at the very thought of what these lyrics are trying to tell you. So, after bothering Michelle about this song for a couple of days, I finally Googled it and found out it was a Positive-K song titled "I Got A Man." There's a ridiculously long and probably offensive rap part that I don't recall, but the chorus is still as I remember. Rereading the gist of the song, I can't help but think that without the help of a music video, it really seems like Positive-K is harassing this slutty-sounding woman.
The thing that triggered my memory of this old and obscure song is an incident that happened to me at the start of the school year. See, I took this atrocious class that nearly broke my soul. While my soul was being ripped in half, I befriended a guy who was in my tutorial. I sat in the gigantic lecture hall, staring at the wall, as I'm wont to do, when I spotted this guy sitting right behind me. It was a rather innocent conversation that went something like this: "Hey, are you in my tutorial?" (that would be me); looks around, wonders about strange women talking to him: "I don't know. I might be…" (that would be him). After we determined through our coordinated time and room number that we were in the same class, we struck up a conversation. Fine, in reality I did most of the talking, as I'm wont to do.
A couple of weeks later, Larry (obviously not his real name) and I began to habitually meet before class so I could grab my cup of coffee and he could hit on me. Sometimes it wasn't even in that order. What transpired between the first class and those later weeks was that Larry had taken it upon himself to come on very strong, and to e-mail me every weekend to see if I would want to grab some dessert. I must explain here that I'm a very is-it-isn't-it-maybe-it's-all-in-my-head type of person, so when I began to suspect that Larry's penchant for grabbing my hand in mid-sentence might not be normal, and his dessert-eating not so innocent, I still didn't want to misinterpret things. Perhaps Larry was a very touchy-feely person who was raised in an environment where hand holding and arm grabbing was a sign of friendship. I casually told him a totally irrelevant story about a trip Bee and I took to Virginia Beach, hoping that he would pick up the signs. But he didn't, unless referring to my boyfriend as my "bore-friend" is the new lingo.
Eventually, Larry's persistence really became grating. It wasn't the fact that I suspected that he had a crush on me - in all actuality, I was very flattered; it was the fact that he didn't realize that me having a boyfriend meant that he should respect my loyalty to someone else. It would be one thing to say that I had led Larry on with my…pen-tapping or note-taking, but since I made it clear that I was very committed to my boyfriend, I didn't see a reason for Larry to insist that we have romantic outings that involved me ditching plans with my boyfriend, or that he should start insulting the very man that I chose to be involved with.
My wishy-washiness was getting me nowhere, I realized. I didn't want to hurt Larry's feelings, as he really is a sweet guy, and I didn't want him to hate me. But I didn't know how much more I could hint at things without being blatant, or how much longer I could pretend that I was "allergic" to human contact. At the same time, I knew that if I let it go on, I would surely lose it one day and snap at him. I hemmed and hawed for weeks, until I realized I had to be firm in order for Larry to want to hold hands with someone else.
The problem with situations like this is that it's common, and often occurs with both men and women who don't quite get the hint, and think that a) the fact that you're taken means that you're still looking for "the one"; b) the fact that you're taken means that you'll do anyone; or c) the fact that you're taken means that you're lying, and if they stick around and keep prodding, you'll eventually cave and go home with them.
Dating is full of hits-and-misses, meaning that even if you find someone that you seem to connect with, you will still have to make sure that they're available. Once in a while, some people do conjure up an imaginary boyfriend or girlfriend, and there's no real way to know if that's the case. But in any situation, real or not, it usually means the person isn't interested. This is one of the few situations in life where persistence is not necessarily the key to happiness.
The "persistent man" syndrome comes down to respect, as in the lack of respect for the person that's being hit on, as in the lack of respect toward his or her decision (for whatever reason) to decline the advances. Most of the times, it isn't even personal. It also comes down to listening, and how easy it is for some people to read between the non-existent lines that are literally five miles away and about two centimeters wide to see what they are hoping to see.
Does this scenario sound familiar: you go to a bar with some friends, ready to have a good time. A man comes up to you. He's obviously a little inebriated, if the slurred words and stumbling around are any indication. He launches into a line, or just flat-out asks you for your name and number. You smile politely, and tell him that you have a boyfriend (we'll leave the indiscretion up to you). He slurs some other stupid lines and then proceeds to tell you that you're "purty" and would you like to see his Camaro? You repeat that in other circumstances you might, but since you have a boyfriend…and then, if he hasn't toppled over in a drunken heap, proceeds to ignore you, or insists that you see his car despite the fact that you don't usually make it a habit to hop into strange men's cars. Finally, a friend catches your distress signal and rescues you.
This hasn't happened to me, but through the magic of fabrication and exagerration, I can very well picture this happening to someone out there. The stats probably go something like this: every two minutes, a persistent man is hitting on a woman somewhere in this world. The only solution? Is being persistent back, and being firm with the other person in hopes that you will get across to them without hurting their feelings.
This isn't a rant about the plight of women who get hit on (which, again, is very flattering), but it is a rant against all those who insist on being an annoyance, consciously or not. It is a stance against all those who choose to ignore the "I got a man" statement. It is a manifesto for all those who had to deal with the steadfast advances of strangers, acquaintances, even friends. It is a proposal that we stand up to this resolute persistence and just say no, that we will not feel guilty, that we will not be made to feel that we need to compromise ourselves because someone keeps telling us to, over and over again.
I can only hope that the woman in the Positive-K song finally told him to leave her alone. ¤ C.Ho.